I have a framed magazine cover hanging on the back side of the door to my office. Because the door is often open, these days I seldom see the magazine cover, but I did see it last week and I wondered if the subject of the cover, tennis player Tony Trabert, was still alive. I checked Google, and Google told me that Tony died this past February: He was 90.
Oh the nostalgia. You see, I was a tennis player in high school and I LOVED Tony Trabert. The Cincinnati native was handsome and he was a winner. Among other accomplishments, Trabert set records by winning five grand slam tennis titles, three in singles and two in doubles in one year, 1955. I was in ninth grade at the time, but I was smitten. When Sports Illustrated Magazine featured Tony on its cover, I confiscated the cover and posted it on my bedroom bulletin board. When I finished college and moved to Chicago, I took the magazine over with me.
You see, Tony Tabert not only was handsome and accomplished, he was my first interview with a famous person. My high school journalism teacher, Yvonne Lanagan, had told us that even as high schoolers we should try for interviews with people who were famous in government, entertainment, etc. So sometime in 1958 my parents took me to a Jack Kramer tennis demonstration in St. Louis. The headliners were Pancho Gonzales and Lew Hoad, but the preliminary match featured Tony Trabert who also was one of the announcers.
During the Gonzalez match, I noted across the stadium that Tony Trabert had decided also to watch the match and was sitting in the stands alone. I remembered my teacher’s words about interviews. My father encouraged me so I left my seat and crossed the stadium and climbed up the bleachers to where Tony Trabert was sitting. Dad said watching me try to maneuver the bleacher steps in my tight skirt (the fashion of the day) was laughable. At any rate, Tony was very kind and agreed to talk with me. I scribbled notes and was thrilled.
Back in school I wrote my story for the Webster Echo (the name of Webster High’s school newspaper). I remember that Mrs. Lanagan had me rewrite the story many times, even though it was a short story. But finally the story was published. My first byline. I somehow had a business address for Trabert and sent him a copy of the story. Trabert wrote back a nice note thanking me and saying I had done a good job. I was thrilled. His reaction may have been one of the reasons I went on to major in journalism in collage.
Time passes. The year is 1990. I am living and working in Chicago and I read in the newspaper that the local tennis club was having a celebration of its anniversary. Several famous tennis greats were coming to town for the celebration, most notably Arthur Ashe. BUT also expected to attend was…Tony Trabert. My boyfriend at the time was talked into trying to crash the celebration with me. I took my Sports Illustrated cover with me.
We somehow talked our way into the party. Arthur Ashe was there in a tennis outfit with lots of people around him with pictures being taken. But sitting at a table not far away were some men, one of whom was Tony Trabert, who the crowd didn’t seem to notice even though after Trabert’s sparking tennis career, he had become a fine tennis broadcaster.
I think I surprised Trabert when, at the celebration, I tapped him on the shoulder re-introduced myself and asked him to sign the Sports Illustrated cover. He said he hadn’t seen that cover in a long time, and again, he couldn’t have been nicer.
So more years go by and I move to Las Vegas. My precious Sports Illustrated magazine cover came along.
Somehow I missed the fact that Tony Trabert passed away February 3, 2021, but I know now, and my memories of the man are all good.
Rest in peace, Tony Trabert.